Friday, 30 October 2015

Easy Chocolate Oat Treats

We tried a new recipe this week- 'easy chocolate oat treats' from
The Scandi Kitchen by Bronte Aurell. The cook book was featured
in last weekend's Saturday Times and the recipes included looked
lovely and delicious. I particularly liked this one because there was
no baking involved, just lots of sugar sprinkles and mixing and rolling
by hand. It sounded like something concocted with my girls in mind
 and making them certainly kept them happy and occupied on a rainy
half-term morning! They taste really good too and despite their sugary
appearance they're actually not too sweet, just a nice mix of chocolate,
 sugar and coffee flavours. They were very easy to make as well, just
as the name suggests. If you'd like to give them a try, here's how:


250g butter
400g rolled oats
175g caster sugar
4tbsp cocoa powder
4tbsp strong, cooled coffee
1tsp vanilla sugar
Dessicated coconut, sugar sprinkles or pearl sugar,
to decorate

1. Blitz all the ingredients, except the coconut, sugar sprinkles
    or pearl sugar, in a food processor, or mix by hand but allow
the butter to soften before doing so.
2. Put the mixture in the fridge to firm up a bit before using it
or it can be a bit too sticky. Add more oats if you feel the
the mixture is too soft.
3. Roll into 2.5cm diameter balls, then roll each ball in either
dessicated coconut, sugar sprinkles or pearl sugar.
4. Firm up in the fridge before eating.

Makes approx.40 and they will keep up to a week in the fridge.

We didn't have sugar pearls or dessicated coconut so we just
used what we've got which were mostly pink glimmer sugar and
hundreds and thousands, all leftovers from last June's birthday
baking. I didn't think the girls would like coconut anyway. And I
wasn't too sure at first about all that raw porridge oats but they
 all got absorbed into the mixture after they've been blitzed and
give the mix a bit of crunchiness. I've added this recipe to our list
of favourites, no doubt we'll be making these again soon.

Thank you so much for your comments on my last post especially
about the pop up restaurant. As Michelle said, it is crazy, but a good
sort of crazy. We're already making plans for the next one, hopefully on
November 28th. Thanks again for your kind and encouraging words.
Fingers crossed it will go well again, I'll keep you posted.

Enjoy your weekend and happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Skeletons, Hedgehogs and a Pop Up

It was a crazy, busy week around here last week. It was the end of
autumn term, lots of school stuff going on and then Saturday was
my husband's pop up restaurant at the city farm cafe. Exciting, scary
and very, very busy. I'm so glad we got through it all and now we have
 another week ahead of us and it's half-term. Yay! No school runs or homework, no plans really. We'll just take each day as it comes and 
see what we'll feel like doing. I'm really all for not doing much and
 taking it very easy this week.

But first a little look back at the best bits of last week. The quieter,
slower moments when I've had a chance to breath, enjoy and 
appreciate the simple, lovely things around me.

:::One morning while the girls were at school and nursery I made 
double chocolate cookies. I do enjoy my time alone at home now.
There is always housework to do but there's also a fair bit of making
and pottering which, for me, is always a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon at home.

:::I made a skeleton costume for Markie. Well, the bottom half of it.
After pirates and mini beasts last school year, it's all about skeletons
this time and as usual the term ended with a special dress up day.

I found a glow-in-the-dark skeleton t-shirt and got her plain black
leggings which I appliqued with felt bone shapes. I know I could have
just bought a ready made Halloween outfit from the shops but I do
like making these things. I enjoyed stitching those appliques and
there's always the extra joy when she likes what I've made her and
she did!

:::It was also Arts Week and Lulu was keen to show me what she had
made at school. Cue a walk outside to gather some leaves and doing
 my best hedgehog drawing. Then there was gluing and sticking
and a bit of colouring in.

 Ta dah! Lulu's autumn-inspired artwork. It was fun and easy and kept
her occupied for awhile. Love a pink faced, leaf covered hedgehog,
don't you?!

:::Thursday morning my husband and I went for a walk at Yorkshire Sculpture Park after dropping the girls off at school. It was lovely to
see the park at this time of year and also to have that time together.

We talked about Saturday and all the stuff we had to do to get everything
ready. There was A LOT to do but talking things through and making
lists helped us get our heads round everything and made it all just
a little bit less daunting. It was a lovely autumn morning to be
outdoors and I'm glad we went there for our walk.

:::I had a good play with washi tapes and these bottles on Friday afternoon followed by some flower arranging.

Someone once said flowers are sort of like a smile and it's true.
Add to that some washi tapes and I was in colour-filled bliss for
about an hour. These were our table decorations and it was a job
I was pleased to do and would certainly love to do again next time.

:::After lots and lots of organizing and preparing, our pop up restaurant
adventure finally happened on Saturday night and I am so pleased to say that it was a success! Hurray!

This really was my husband's idea and it's what he'd love to do
as a job one day. Neither of us has done anything like this before
and it was very stressful and scary but I'm glad we've done it.  We've learned a lot from the experience. We're also lucky to have found a venue at the farm cafe and people who've been supportive from the start.
They've already invited us back and we're already planning for the
next evening in November. Our hope has always been to make this
into a monthly event and it looks like it is going to happen. Yay!!

Thank you for all your lovely comments about my crocheted
bear. I haven't started on the new one yet, still can't decide over
a cat or a fox.

 Hope your weekend was fun and half term is going well.
Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sidetracked by a Bear

 I got sidetracked by a bear last week. Blanket and costume making
had to be put on hold because this sweet little thing was demanding
to be crocheted and made into a bag.

The idea came to me one morning while I was thinking about presents 
I'd like to make for the girls and it kept nagging at me until I gave in. So
 I got my hook and yarn out and the pattern that I've worked out in my head seemed to have worked. Yay!

My bear is made of cotton yarn both DK and aran. Her face and nose
were crocheted on the round but her ears are double crochet triangles*
that I've slipstiched round to make them less pointy. I've even made
a loop and attached a button at the back so it can be closed like 
a proper bag. 

I'm really, really pleased with her. I'm usually not very confident
with crochet and wouldn't attempt anything without a pattern to
follow so I'm very chuffed with how this has turned out. And the
girls love it too which always makes it even better.

I'm glad to have been distracted by this little project because it's
given me lots more ideas. Someone said this will make a cute cushion and I do think it will work. I'll just have to make it much bigger and
add two more loops to close the opening. That's definitely something
I'd like to try soon but first I have to make another bag so the girls can have one each. They love this bear but I might make a fox or a cat
 for the next one. I'm not sure yet, we'll see!

*from 201 crochet motifs, blocks, projects & ideas by Melody Griffiths

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Autumn Man

Lulu says there's an Autumn Man who comes round at the end
of summer and casts a magic spell on the trees so all their leaves
change colours from green to yellow, red, orange and brown. The
 cool, misty mornings and beautiful evening skies, all the apples, pears
and pumpkins, the conkers and leaves on the ground - all these
things that we love about autumn are the work and magic of the
Autumn Man. And if, like me, you wonder what this Autumn Man
looks like, she says he's very tall, wears a pointy hat and a long robe (colour not specified), has a red beard and carries a wand. And where
does he live? "In a tent in a campsite where all the magic men live!
Don't you know, Mummy?'" Well, I didn't but now I do.

 I do like the Autumn Man and his work, don't you? I know I wasn't
too keen at the beginning. I was still trying to hold on to summer
 but now that the autumn season is in full swing, I do like it. It's cold
but not too cold yet and there's still light in the early evenings. I am grateful that it gives us this time to prepare for winter, to get ourselves ready and our homes cosy for the colder days ahead. Autumn is a
beautiful season, I must admit, and now I know, it's all thanks
to the Autumn Man. I think he's wonderful, don't you?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Autumnal Apple Cake

Saturday before last was Apples and Pears Day at the walled garden
in Wortley Hall. It was a beautiful autumn afternoon with blue skies
 and warm sunshine, just perfect for a wander round the grounds of the
estate and see all the organic vegetables and fruit trees grown within
 the hall's walled garden. There were lots to see but it was mostly the apples that caught my eye. They were all over the place, in trees,
 on the ground, in wooden crates, displayed in boxes on a table, and
 floating in water inside a plastic tub. I'm not sure why they were
 in that tub, to be honest, but anyway, they were just everywhere.
And of course there were delicious cakes and freshly pressed juice
too, all of which we tried and really enjoyed.

That lovely, apple-filled afternoon (sorry pears) inspired my cake-
baking this week. I found a recipe from the Bake-a-boo Bakery
 Cookbook that is very similar to one of the cakes I tasted that
Saturday. It's deliciously moist, full of apple and cinnamon flavours
 and, to me, very wonderfully autumnal. You might like to try it too.
Here's the recipe:

**Autumnal Apple Cake**

For the cake:

175g (6 oz) butter at room temperature
150g (5 oz) light muscovado sugar
3 large free-range eggs
200g (7 oz) apples, peeled, cored & sliced
100 g (3 1/2 oz) sultanas
175g (6 oz) self-raising flour, sifted
1tsp ground cinnamon
icing sugar, for dusting

For the topping:

2 apples, peeled, cored & finely sliced
2 tsps demerara sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Grease and line
the bottom of a 20cm (8 inch) loose-bottomed cake tin.
Cream the butter and muscovado sugar together until smooth
and creamy, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the apples and sultanas, then gently fold in the flour
and cinnamon until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the
prepared cake tin and level with a spoon.

Arrange the apple slices for the topping in a neat fan all the way
around the outer edge of the cake, then make a circle in the centre.
Sprinkle the apples with the demerara sugar, then cook in the
preheated oven for 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake
comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, then release and serve
dusted with icing sugar.

I hope you'll like this cake as much as we do. I forgot to dust
the top with icing sugar but it doesn't really matter I think. It's still
very taste, especially paired with a cup of tea. Enjoy!

On another baking note, I'm very pleased for Nadiya for winning
this year's The Great British Bake Off. She was in great baking form
in the finals and aced through all three challenges. She's the real
deserving winner, well done to her.

A lovely Sunday evening to you all. See you soon!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Blanket Making

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party. My winter
project is a blanket that I started making last month. I wasn't really
planning to make one. I bought some discounted cotton yarn at the
beginning of summer hoping to make another shawl for myself
but I sort of fell out of love with the idea over the school holidays.

I thought a blanket or throw for the living room is more essential
and will get more use so that's what I decided to make instead.
 I'm usually wary of starting big projects like this because of the size
and the amount of time it takes to finish them. I've tried making a
blanket before. My first attempt had the granny chevron stitch which
was nice but I couldn't decided what colour yarns to use and gave up
on the project after just a few rows.

 I've done better with my second try. My granny square throw is now
 a good size but it's been months since I've taken it out of the basket
 and worked on it so it still remains just a WIP.

But I'm feeling more hopeful and positive about this new blanket.
With Lulu now at nursery twice a week, I have more time for making
and crafting so it should get finished, and I'd be very pleased if this
can happen before Christmas. I'm sure it will. As they say, third time lucky!

Having said all that, I'm actually going to take a break from it
next week while I make a costume for Markie and I'll be starting
making Christmas presents too. But I'll always be picking it up
and adding stitches whenever I can. I like it so much I really
can't leave it for long, so fingers crossed for more progress to
report here next time.

Thanks to Jennifer for organising this link party. Do visit her
wonderful blog if you haven't already and you can also have a look
at what everyone else is busy making this autumn and winter.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

A Crocheted Rug

Hello. I hope it's been a good weekend for you all. Thank you for
stopping by here and for all your well wishes this week. My knee is healing and I'm feeling so much better. The new antibiotics seemed
to have done the trick. Lulu is recovering too and is back to her usual
chirpy self which is just wonderful. However now it's Markie who's
got the 'tummy bug' that her sister had. I was hoping she'll avoid it
but no such luck. She'd spent most of today curled up under a blanket
 on the sofa but she's looking better this evening so we're keeping
our fingers crossed.

Anyway, I said in my last post that I'll show you the rug I've made
 for their bed room so that's what I'll do here and I'll tell you all about it.

I started off a few weeks ago with this big ball of yellow fabric yarn
and a size ten crochet hook. It didn't take very long for the rug to
grow and take shape but then I ran our of yarn and had to order for
more. It was finally finished last week and we're all happy with it.
Now there's a little more colour and warmth on that bare space
next to their bunk beds and it feels much nicer especially when
 they're playing on the floor.

I've never used both yarn and hook this big before and it took
me awhile to get used to them. I've had to rest every now and
again otherwise my fingers and shoulders ached if I worked on it
for long periods but I'm quite happy with the fabric yarn. It's soft, 
didn't have many knots and the colours were even throughout. 

I got the idea and pattern for this from Mollie Makes issue 51
though I changed yarn colours in a slightly different way. I initially
wanted dark pink for the outer rounds but it was not available and
the pale pink is so pale it's almost white. Lulu suggested orange,
confidently assuring me that "it' s a good colour, Mummy" and
she's right. It's bright and cheerful and all three colours go well
together. I think next time I'm stuck for ideas I should just ask her!

So that's it, my latest finished project. Thank you again for your
visits here and for your comments. Hopefully Markie gets much
much better tomorrow. Take care and have a good week!